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U MAD BRO? Twitter Sentiment for NFL Teams In and Out of Their Markets

In and Out MarketAt Emory Sports Marketing Analytics, we often use Twitter as a marketing research tool that helps us understand the mood and loyalty of fan bases.  Recently, we decided to compare the sentiment of tweets about a NFL football team that originate from the team’s home market with the sentiment of tweets coming from outside the home market.  For example, are tweets mentioning the Cowboys more positive if initiated in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex than if tweeted from elsewhere;  if so, how much more positive?  Furthermore, how does this compare to the other thirty-one teams in the NFL?

In order to answer these questions, we used Topsy Pro, a platform that allowed us to collect all tweets mentioning NFL teams from June 1, 2009 to January 1, 2014.  We then sorted the tweets as originating from inside or outside the team’s market.  Next, the content of the tweets was analyzed and the tweets were marked as having positive, negative, or neutral sentiment.  Using this data, we were able to create a “sentiment” index which was simply the ratio of positive to negative tweets.  The chart above graphs the difference between the sentiment index for in-market tweets and out of market tweets for each NFL team.  The Seattle Seahawks have the biggest difference between how positively they are perceived in their home market versus outside their home market.

There are several factors that can drive this difference between in and out of market sentiment, including:

  • Polarizing team brand (e.g. Dallas Cowboys)
  • Polarizing personalities on a team (e.g. Richard Sherman & Jim Irsay)
  • Off the Field Scandals (e.g. Miami Dolphins & Kansas City Chiefs)
  • On the Field Performance (e.g. Seattle Seahawks & Houston Texans)

umadbroA deeper look at tweets mentioning the Seahawks seems to indicate that in the Seattle area, the Seahawks are beloved on Twitter due to the fact that they have been winning over the past few years, and because of outspoken personalities like Richard Sherman.  These same factors seem to be driving much of the hate for the Seahawks on Twitter outside of Seattle.  The Green Bay Packers are an exception to the factors listed above.  In the case of the Packers, their sentiment index is ridiculously high in the state of Wisconsin.  Even though they also have a high sentiment index outside of Wisconsin, it’s just that no team is close to being as beloved in their home market as the Packers.

It is interesting to note that there are teams that have more positive sentiment outside their home market than within the market.  For the Patriots, Raiders, Bears, Giants, Broncos, and Steelers, this phenomenon seems to be partially due to having a large widespread national fan base that is actually less critical of the team than the fans that still live in the home market.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.

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